Featured in the lineup for the 1 1/8-mile test are the hard-knocking Bourbon Courage, multiple grade I winner Flat Out, and Mark Valeski, one-length winner of the Feb. 23 Mineshaft Handicap (gr. III) over Tenth Street Stables and Jason Padovan's Cool Street, who will also contest the New Orleans 'Cap.
This race has been a target for Graydar and Bourbon Courage since their 1-2 finish Feb. 9 in the Donn at Gulfstream Park, when Graydar took a frontrunning path to a three-length victory over his late-closing rival for his first stakes score. Flat Out was fourth in that event, the most recent start for all three contenders.
Graydar, a 4-year-old son of Unbridled's Song trained by Todd Pletcher for Twin Creeks Racing Stables, will have questions to answer in this Louisiana outing. His three victories in four attempts all came at Gulfstream Park, with his only outside start resulting in a third in allowance company last September at Belmont Park. He also was assigned one of the lightest weights in the Donn field (114, along with Fast Falcon) and this time will carry highweight of 120 including Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado from the outside post.
Super Derby (gr. II) winner Bourbon Courage, on the other hand, broke his maiden and won an allowance at Fair Grounds in his first two starts for Bourbon Lane Stables and Wayne Lynn and trainer Kellyn Gorder. The Lion Heart 4-year-old will depart post 2 under Javier Castellano and a 118-pound impost.
Flat Out, who drew the rail under 119 and jockey Junior Alvarado, seeks his first victory since taking his second consecutive edition of the TVG Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational (gr. I) in September. Since then, the 7-year-old Flatter runner finished third in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park and was fourth in the Donn.
Mark Valeski, Brereton Jones' homebred 4-year-old son of Proud Citizen, came back off the layup for trainer Larry Jones to run second in the Louisiana Handicap before winning the Mineshaft. These traditional preps for the New Orleans Handicap seem to have positioned the colt well for his next assignment. Jockey James Graham fills in for regular rider Rosie Napravnik, who will be in Florida to pilot Shanghai Bobby in the Florida Derby (gr. I). The duo departs post 7 carrying 118 pounds.